The Association of Village Council Presidents has confirmed near bankruptcy, authorless financial investments, and three pending audits.
Wednesday, June 8th, Tribal leaders from across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta came together for what many thought was a long overdue discussion on the state of AVCP’s finances.
Harold Napoleon, tribal delegate and former AVCP president, said the organization is like a sinking ship without a caption.
“It should be of a very great concern to the Yupik people the condition and the shape that AVCP is in,” Napoleon said.
Napoleon said the board chairman told delegates that AVCP came close to bankruptcy in November 2015 but neglected to inform their board of directors until last week.
During December 2015, a month later, the organization laid of 30 of its employees. They cited QUOTE “current economic trends” as their reason in a press release.
Those layoffs happened just months after the organization received more than $9 million in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Last week’s meeting is the first time the full board has met since then after administration canceled February’s meeting, which Napoleon said the boards chairman admitted was intentional.
“He admitted that they were withholding information,” Napoleon said.
During that time, Napoleon said other groups have taken interest in the matter.
“They told their board members that they’re undergoing audits,” Napoleon said. “They admitted that.”
Napoleon said AVCP is being investigated by at least three different auditors, the executive board did not tell delegates which companies were auditing.
These audits come after a series of leaked emails in January 2016 revealed AVCP mishandled federal grants to fund administrative salaries, and at least one million dollars went from the AVCP TANF account to fund a flight school. TANF is federal program to help needy families with strict spending regulations. A flight school would be outside of those guidelines and AVCP had been warned it was against the rules.
“Yes they did,” Napoleon said. “They agreed yes they did take TANF funds and used them for the flight school.”
Despite months of waiting, Napoleon said delegates still don’t have the whole picture.
“They were not able to provide numbers because their chief financial officer was not there,” Napoleon said.
The biggest unknown, Napoleon said, was who authorized the reallocation of the TANF funds, as well as investments in real estate like the now closed Allanivik Hotel. Napoleon said the administration told delegates they don’t know who signed off on those deals.
These admissions come a month after former AVCP president Myron Naneng resigned. Naneng made no indication of AVCP’s financial trouble in an interview discussing his retirement with Alaska Dispatch News but Napoleon said he must have known.
“He’s been president for 24 years,” Napoleon said. “As president he knew, or should have known all this information in those 24 years. I can’t say that he knew specifically were every penny was, but he was the president.”
These announcements are deeply troubling for the future of the organization, Napoleon said.
“I think, as someone who’s been around AVCP since its inception, that I believe that the organization is lost. The 56 villages need to determine where it’s going,” Napoleon said. “It just cannot continue on this way. And it affects the health and well being of all our people, because it is the instrument that we created to advance our causes and our concerns. If it’s lost, then in a sense, we are lost.”
KYUK spoke with two other delegates who confirmed the accuracy of Napoleon’s statements but who didn’t want to go on record.
Myron Nanning did not respond to phone calls for comment.
AVCP Acting President Mike Hoffman declined to comment and AVCP Board Chairman Henry Hunter declined to comment as well.